On September 8th at 3:30am Rick, Will and I set out for Williston, North Dakota. We'd been planning a trip centered around documenting how the oil boom had affected the once small town of Williston. The 'boom' as many people call it happened in late 2008, new technology in hydraulic fracking had allowed Americans to gain access to oil that had always existed in our country, but was too difficult to reach. Williston is a full day of driving from Chicago; especially if you plan to explore, nearly fall off a cliff, get stuck in a monsoon or find yourself in the middle of a lightning storm-which we did.
As dawn approached we found ourselves in a vacant tourist destination : The Wisconsin Dells. The beginning of September left this city empty, and we ate it up. The unicorn was one of many cheesy hotel gimmicks leftover from the 70's.
As lunchtime approached we were in Minneapolis, Minnesota...which was AWESOME. No joke, Minneapolis is one freaking cool city. We popped into Triple Rock for lunch and met up with a friend who was determined to show us something off the grid. We drove to an area filled with trees, right above the river and decided to disregard the nature trail and head straight down the ravine. I scooted my way down the steep hillside until my phone fell from my back pocket, at which point I released my footing and flew down the hillside after it. I soon realized I was coming to a drop-off. Looking around I reached for a tree branch to save myself.
After making it down the ravine our friend brought us to a sewer that was filled with graffiti.
Nearly falling down a ravine was completely worth the urban spelunking. We left Minnesota in the late afternoon with ten more hours ahead of us.
As the sun set we headed out from Fargo, North Dakota. Six more hours of drive time on a two lane highway in pitch black darkness...and then the lightning and rain started. We stopped at a gas station to collect our bearings and met a new friend, a tiger salamander, native to North Dakota.
The rain began to pick up...
Then it got worse...
The water got deeper and deeper on the road and after the fourth time hydroplaning we pulled off and waited it out. We'd been on the road for over twenty-hours and began to feel as though we would never make it back.
"Guys... I think we're driving into hell!" I said, pointing to the fire burning orange into the sky. It was a rig burning off the natural gas before it began active drilling. We had finally made it to the outskirts of the city. We were finally in oil country.